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Nobel winner urges Mid-East focus

Martti Ahtisaari
The former Finnish president accepted the prize at Oslo's City Hall

The former president of Finland, Martti Ahtisaari, called for greater efforts to resolve the Middle East conflict, as he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize.

Mr Ahtisaari won the prize for his efforts to resolve conflicts around the world over the past 30 years.

At the ceremony in Norway, he called on US President-elect Barack Obama to give "high priority" to the Middle East.

He said world powers must be "seriously committed" to resolving crises in "Israel, Palestine, Iraq and Iran".

"If you want to achieve lasting results, we must look at the whole region," he said during his acceptance speech at Oslo's City Hall.

'High priority'

The veteran mediator said: "All conflicts can be settled and there are no excuses for allowing them to become eternal.

"I hope that the new president of the United States, who will be sworn in next month, will give high priority to the Middle East conflict during his first year in office," he said.

"The tensions and wars in the region have been going on for so long that many have come to believe that the Middle East knot can never be untied - I do not share this belief."

Mr Ahtisaari is the first Finnish winner of the prize, worth about $1.2m (808,000).

Over the past 30 years, he has helped to resolve conflicts in trouble spots such as Indonesia, Namibia, Northern Ireland and the Balkans.

The head of the Nobel committee, Ole Danbolt Mjoes, said the scale and scope of Mr Ahtisaari's activities were almost beyond belief.



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Profile: Martti Ahtisaari
10 Oct 08 |  Europe

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